Frank Matcham and Company, theatre architects: records

Scope and Content

Working drawings for theatres designed by Frank Matcham's architectural practice, including original "contract sets", pre-contract drawings and survey plans, blueprints, negatives and tracings. This archive represents a substantial part of Frank Matcham's total output of work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Francis (Frank) Matcham was one of the most prolific theatre architects of all time. Born in Devon in 1854, he was apprenticed to a local architect and to a quantity surveyor in London. In the 1870s he joined the firm of Jethro Thomas Robinson, theatre architectural adviser to the Lord Chamberlain, and subsequently married his employer's daughter. In 1878 he took over the practice on Robinson's death.

From 1879 to 1912 Matcham built or rebuilt over 150 theatres across Britain, and introduced innovations such as cantilevered galleries. His emphasis was on practicalities (maximising audiences and ensuring good sightlines) but he also created rich interiors in a variety of styles. Examples of his theatre work include the Grand Opera House in Belfast, the Grand Theatre in Blackpool, the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, Richmond Theatre in Surrey, the Gaiety Theatre in Douglas (Isle of Man), the Hackney Empire, the Shepherd's Bush Empire, the London Palladium and, perhaps most famously, the London Coliseum. He also designed pubs, cinemas, hotels, the County Arcade in Leeds, and the Tower Ballroom and Circus in Blackpool. Matcham died in 1920.


These records have been arranged by project, generally according to the inherited roll numbering system from Frank Matcham's practice. The Hackney Empire drawings (originally rolls 9 A to H) were removed from the sequence for a pilot cataloguing exercise and the reference number created for that exercise (THM/2/1) has been retained. For this reason and because there is no material in the archive realting to some of the original roll numbers, there is some variance between roll numbers and archive reference numbers, although this has been kept to a minimum. Series number THM/2/16 is not used.

Only the Hackney Empire drawings, THM/2/1, have been catalogued to file level (by John Earl). In all other cases, series level descriptions have been provided: these are based on two conservation surveys carried out in 1995 and 1996. Due to restrictions on handling, many of the covering dates and extents provided are approximate or cannot be verified.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Henry Montague, 1995

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Custodial History

The remainder of the drawings from Matcham and Company are thought to have been destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. Many of those acquired had been water-damaged prior to their purchase by the Museum.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also V&A Department of Theatre and Performance core collections: material relating to the theatres designed by Frank Matcham and Company may be found in theatre buildings folders. There is also a biographical file on Frank Matcham. Please ask for details.

Original drawings for the London Coliseum are held by that theatre.


Iain Mackintosh, 'Matcham, Francis (1854-1920)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008 [, accessed 20 Nov 2008]